Lester, Middlebrooks lead Red Sox past Tigers in possible playoff preview

BOSTON — With two first place teams facing off in September, like Monday’s game, it had a playoff-like atmosphere, especially with two top starters going head-to-head. In playoff games, taking advantage of opportunities becomes more important than ever, which is just what the Red Sox did in their 2-1 win over the Tigers Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

“That was a lot of fun tonight,” Red Sox catcher David Ross said. “You know, one the crowd and playing them [Tigers] kind of made it kind of a playoff atmosphere and the crowd was really into it. There were some big hits and the guys were really into it. That atmosphere, and what the pitchers were doing, that made that game a lot of fun to call.”

After being limited to just one hit through the first four innings, the Red Sox finally got to Tigers ace and 19-game winner Max Scherzer in the fifth. Jonny Gomes singled to left, which was followed by a ground-rule double from Stephen Drew setting up second and third with one out. David Ross struck out, setting the stage for Will Middlebrooks who came through with a clutch single to center field giving the Sox a 2-1 advantage. Scherzer was as advertised as three of his five hits allowed came in the fifth inning.

Jon Lester gave the Red Sox one of his best starts of the season, going up against the best offenses in the AL, as the Tigers came into the game leading the league in runs per game. The left-hander went seven innings, allowing just one run (in the second inning), while scattering eight hits and striking out a season-high nine hitters. Brandon Workman came in to retire Miguel Cabrera to lead-off the eighth, followed by Craig Breslow who retired Price Fielder, but then allowed a single to Victor Martinez. Junichi Tazawa then came in to strikeout Omar Infante and get out of the eighth and ending the threat. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth to pick up his 17th save and continue his dominance of late as it was his sixth straight perfect outing in a save opportunity.

The teams will wrap up their three-game series tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) where Ryan Dempster will be opposed by Rick Porcello.

What they’ll be saying: The story of the game for the Red Sox was Lester who ever since the All-Star break has emerged as arguably the best pitcher on the staff. Over his last 10 starts he has a 2.59 ERA, lowering his season ERA to 3.88. He now has earned a quality start in each of his last six outings, with a 1.81 ERA in that stretch … Middlebrooks came through with the game-winning hit in the fifth inning, it was his seventh go-ahead RBI of the year, all of which ave plated the game’s winning run … There is no denying it was a playoff-type atmosphere and Red Sox manager John Farrell managed like it was a playoff game, using three pitchers in the eighth.


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